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By:L Wilder

In reflection, I should’ve left Michael that night and never looked back. I honestly thought the incident would be a one time thing. I told myself that the shock and stress from the news of my unexpected pregnancy had just completely overwhelmed him and caused him to totally flip out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The attacks were sporadic but effective. I never knew what was going to set him off, and over time, I became a different person. I hated that I didn’t stand up for myself more, demand that he treat me better, but the fear was just so all consuming. I eventually learned to do whatever I could to make him happy, always trying my best to keep the peace. I was finally learning to deal with Michael and his temper, but when we found out about Wyatt, things got worse.

As Wyatt got a little older, I became worried that he wasn’t talking like most of the children his age. When I finally took him to be tested, they informed us that he had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that causes some children to have trouble with social interactions, and they often exhibit a restricted range of interests and repetitive behaviors. It was a heartbreaking discovery, but I still managed to remain hopeful. Wyatt was a wonderful little boy, and I loved him just the way he was. Unfortunately, Michael hated that his son was different. Image was everything to Michael. He was fixated on us appearing as the perfect all-American family, especially to his parents, and he blamed me for Wyatt’s delays. Ultimately, I ended up in the hospital for five days with three cracked ribs, a broken wrist and slight head trauma, all due to his frustration with our son. That night changed everything. I was done trying to make things work with an abusive husband. I gathered up all the courage I could muster, and I pressed charges against him. It’s one of the reasons he now has supervised visitation with Wyatt and had to attend anger management classes for a year. The classes seemed to be helping him, but they didn’t make me feel any better about sending Wyatt over there. I just don’t trust Michael, but in the end, the courts left me no choice.

When Wyatt caught me staring at him, he asked, “So, are you going to make nuggets?”

“Yeah, I’ll make chicken nuggets, but you’re going to have to eat some vegetables, too,” I told him as I headed towards the kitchen.

Wyatt reached for his backpack and followed me, tossing his things on the floor by the table. “Okay, but no broccoli. I hate broccoli. And I got a one hundred on my math test today,” he told me, pulling his books out and placing them on the kitchen table.

“That’s great, buddy, but I’m not surprised. You always do well in math.”

“It’s my favorite,” he confessed.

“I know. It was always mine, too. Since you did so well, you can have a few extra minutes on your game after dinner.”

As usual, I got no response. He knew he earned extra time on his game when he made good grades, so after dinner, he curled up in his favorite spot and finished creating his new world. When he was done, he headed for the shower without being told. I searched through his drawers looking for his favorite pajamas and laid them on his dresser. I sat down on the edge of his bed and waited for him to finish up in the bathroom. The shower turned off and seconds later I heard Wyatt’s wet little feet slap against the hardwood floor as he headed down the hall. He stopped at the doorway and stared at me with one towel wrapped around his waist and another around his head.

“What’s up, Buddy?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he answered as he walked over to me and wrapped his little wet arms around my neck. When I wrapped my arms around him a mix of fruity shampoo and my favorite body wash surrounded me. I held him tight against my chest, kissing him lightly on the side of his head. I cherished those moments. Wyatt isn’t one to give affection often, but when he does, there’s no better feeling in the entire world. There was a time when he wouldn’t even talk to me much less touch me, so I held him close, enjoying the moment while it lasted.

“Time for bed, momma,” he told me, pulling free from my embrace. He reached for his clothes and started to get dressed, letting me know that he didn’t need my help.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you,” I told him as I got up and started to leave. “Love you, Buddy.”

“You too,” he replied while he crawled into the bed. I went back to check on him fifteen minutes later, and he was already sound asleep.

The next morning Wyatt was already up and getting dressed by the time I had gotten out of the shower. When he finished getting ready, he stood at my bedroom door, sporting his favorite pair of red tennis shoes.